Slit Mouthed WomanToru ShinagawaMai EndoYurei Yanagi
The Slit-Mouthed Woman 0: The Beginning
Also known as: Kuchisake-onna 0: Beginning
Medium: film
Year: 2008
Writer/director: Kazuto Kodama
Keywords: Slit Mouthed Woman, horror, rubbish
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Mai Endo, Miyu Oriyama, Yurei Yanagi, Toru Shinagawa, Miho Harita, Mochihito Igarashi, Makoto Kikuchi, Akira Koyasumi, Yukimasa Nakamachi, Kanako Ohtsuka
Format: 89 minutes
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 22 January 2020
Heaven help us, I've just found two more Kuchisake-onna movies:
Anyway, the one I'm reviewing today is terrible. It's so focused on Japanese ghost story cliches that it's ignoring anything else, e.g. characters. This film has a cast, but no characters. Actors appear on-screen and say dialogue, but the film's uninterested in them except as fodder for spooky scenes.
It's about two sisters. The younger one (Masato) had an accident that injured her face, but plastic surgery has restored her to normal... on the outside. The older one is going to get married. That's covered in the first ten minutes, after which the film stops having a character-based storyline. There's backstory. There are policemen trying to investigate killings. Basically, though, the film's a bunch of ghost story scenes that are equating "scary" with "I can't tell what's going on".
Older Sister has one scene with her fiance, near the beginning. They're planning their possible wedding. After that, he's never glimpsed or mentioned. The older sister is focused on Masato, but note the early-ish scene where they're reunited after Masato's been missing for some time. Theoretically, that's the first real, meaningful thing to have happened in the film in a good 10-15 minutes. It's a scene that matters... but I didn't believe it. Neither actress was inhabiting the moment and the director wasn't making any effort to help. I didn't believe that the older sister had just found her missing sibling, while similarly I didn't believe that Masato's dialogue was coming from a real emotional place.
They have no chemistry. There was one key scene where their engagement with each other is so bad that it's as if each actress shot her scenes separately, then the shots were combined with CGI. Amazingly, even the Elderly Bloke With Tragic Backstory has been written and directed to be as wooden as possible. (That's not Toru Shinagawa's fault. He's an old pro. Admittedly, though, to some extent there's a story reason for his manner.)
This is a slow, boring film that feels longer than it is, but occasionally it's so bad that it's funny. The best example of its disinterest in portraying its characters' point of view comes at the end. A character whose throat's been slit manages to speak in her normal voice even as she's bleeding to death. She sounds clear and gentle, with no pain. She then immediately dies.
It also doesn't help that:
(a) Masato's a brat, e.g. throwing away her sister's wedding ring, then scolding her for not getting angry. When the scene ends with her getting stuck in the spooky horror forest after dark, it's her own stupid fault.
(b) even the kuchisake-onna herself isn't allowed any individuality. She's just a mindless, croaking ghost with no desires, motivation or sentience. This is a stereotypical Japanese ghost story and you'll have seen most of its tricks before if you know the Ringu and Ju-on movies. (Played-backwards incidental music, creaky-floorboard voice, sinister eye shot, etc.) Not counting the very end, the kuchisake-onna only speaks once (her trademark phrase) and the film's actively hostile to any suggestion that she might mean it. It's a hilariously over-the-top horror movie line delivery.
(c) there's rubber reality in the very first scene. Anything might be subjective. Any shot might contradict the one before. This forces you to doubt the reality of everything from then on, i.e. you don't care and you won't be scared.
(d) the film's deliberately making it hard to tell what's going on. When we glimpse some corpses in the woods, for instance, this has so little context that it provokes no emotional response. It's just a disorientating spooky shot in a film that's full of them. It's clear from an earlier scene what the film expects us to infer, but one's disinclined to put in the effort for a film that's so hard to engage with.
(e) when policemen come to question you in connection with some murders, you deny that there's anyone else in the house. Everyone then hears the noise of someone moving upstairs. The police don't go up there to see for themselves, but instead just ask you a gentle question and leave.
There are good things. Occasionally the ghost cliches work, e.g. the scene with the policeman's camera phone. The film does well with its "monochrome that secretly wants to be black-and-white", making its dinginess seem natural rather than the result of distractingly loud colour correction in post-production. (The downside, though, is that the film's visuals are often as boring as everything else about it.) The throat-slitting is quite a good gore shot, although the severed hand isn't.
The kuchisake-onna's origin story is also unexpected. I hadn't seen that coming. Unfortunately it's unexpected in a feeble way, being less dramatic than pretty much any alternative. (No one was cruel to anyone and it was all a big whoopsie, really.)
This isn't just a bad film. It's definitively bad, the work of someone who isn't even engaging with the concept of movie storytelling. You could use it as a yardstick in bad horror discussions. That said, though, it's not even interesting enough to be worth hate-watching. If you watch this film, you'll be bored, bored, bored, bored, bored, bored, bored, bored and then right at the end laughing three times over at hilariously bad decisions. In that order. It's not lurid trash. It's just grey, derivative and mediocre.